Defeating Blasphemous Thoughts
God & Exposure Therapy
End the Terror of Intrusive Thoughts
This page in Spanish
As explained elsewhere in this vast website, blasphemous thoughts is just my quick way of referring to any mental image or thought about spiritual things that alarms you. Moreover, the same principles apply even more broadly to such things as thoughts or images of harming loved ones.
In the previous webpage we discovered that as fires need oxygen, intrusive thoughts need fear. Fearing a thought is like fanning a spark into a wildfire. When fear is controlled, however, it matters little how often unwanted thoughts break out, because without fear they will splatter and die like smothered flames.
Or look at it this way: being hounded by unwanted thoughts or images is like being forced to hear an enemy’s taunts as he insults your loved one. The more you let his slander upset you, the more encouraged he will be to keep it up. Remain unmoved, however, and he will begin to tire of that tactic.
Furthermore, trying to fight intrusive thoughts is like trying to fight a swarm of bees – it will only stir them up more than ever and compound the problem.
Michael, whose testimony appears on this website in a subsequent webpage, was so terrified of the blasphemous thoughts that plagued him that, though otherwise perfectly sane, the fear put him into a mental hospital thirteen times and once had him bedridden for eight consecutive months. A counselor suggested that since uncontrollable thoughts are driven by fear, Michael should try Exposure Therapy.
If you are expecting some revolutionary concept, prepare to be disappointed. Exposure Therapy is little more than a fancy name for common sense. It just means exposing yourself to something you fear until you get used to it and the fear drains away. The old advice about getting back on a horse after a frightening fall is Exposure Therapy in action, although therapists usually do it a little more gradually.
Fearfully keeping the thoughts locked within us as if they were some terrifying or shameful secret gives them the power to haunt us. Moreover, avoiding situations that might generate unwanted thoughts can be highly unproductive. For example, some people fear blasphemous thoughts so much that they reduce their Bible reading, some avoid church attendance and some even stop praying. It is not in the slightest that they do not want fellowship with God, but caving in to fear because these are situations in which their unwanted thoughts are particularly common. To let these attacks stop you from spending time with God, however, would be to let the devil win. Instead, honor God by pursuing those spiritual activities more than ever, no matter how many unwanted thoughts assault you as you do so. That is defiant, God-glorifying faith in action. It makes all of heaven want to applaud you. It is tackling the problem head-on and is a powerful version of Exposure Therapy.
Before describing other types of Exposure Therapy, let’s remind ourselves that the thought of worshipping Satan not only entered the sinless Son of God’s head, the Holy Lord carefully preserved this fact in the Bible. The Lord documented this not once but twice (Matthew 4:9; Luke 4:7) for all subsequent generations to read and think about. Moreover, at least eight times the Gospels record people saying that Jesus had an evil spirit (Scriptures). It also says that people accused him of being insane (Mark 3:21) and it details all sorts of atrocious accusations, such as calling him “a gluttonous man, and a drunkard” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Seven times it records people accusing him of blasphemy (Scriptures). Let’s not insult God by trying to be ‘holier’ than he is. Clearly, the Almighty neither fears blasphemous lies, nor is he upset by saints thinking about them. In fact, he wants these lies read and meditated upon by every devout Bible reader.
Michael’s counselor suggested that he apply Exposure Therapy to his thought life in a more controversial way than merely exposing himself to situations in which hideous thoughts might invade his mind. I will not offend anyone’s sensibilities by providing details. I will present it in a way that is even vaguer than the Holy Word of God. The counselor suggested that Michael write down all the worst thoughts, fears and images that trouble him and read them out loud on a regular basis to someone whose opinion he trusted, such as a pastor. Calmly discussing these things with someone reputable who is not freaked out by them, diminishes their power to instill fear. If you think for a moment, you will realize that this is actually on a par with confessing one’s sin to a spiritual advisor. In fact, I would go even further, and say that in most cases it is as innocent as a crime victim describing what he suffered.
Unfortunately, Michael’s attempt failed because his pastor neither understood the nature of this affliction nor the purpose of Exposure Therapy.
Rather than give up, however, Michael decided to try what he calls the ultimate Exposure Therapy. He chose to present his thoughts to God, the supreme Authority, and tell him, “Lord, this thought [he would then detail it] comes into my mind. You know I don’t believe that.” This simple approach proved a huge success, eventually significantly diminishing the number of attacks. Michael still occasionally suffers intrusive thoughts, especially when he is tired, but these days, when it happens, it no longer freaks him. He just laughs at it with the Lord, knowing that God sees it as just a ridiculous trick of the mind. Rather than fearing these awful thoughts as something that threatens his relationship with God, he uses undesirable thoughts as an opportunity to enjoy fellowship with God – as something to discuss with God, rather than reason to run from God. Furthermore, the thoughts, having been diffused of the fear they used to instill, soon fall away.
No matter how much this could change your life if regularly done, however, it obviously will not work if you were to cave into false guilt and refuse to mention those thoughts to God. Do not kid yourself into thinking you are being ‘holy’ by not mentioning them. You would be dishonoring God by holding back because you would be spurning all the times he tells us in his Word to confess our sin to him.
When a thought invades a person’s mind against his will it is not even sin. It is like spiritual rape that defiles the rapist but keeps the victim spiritually pure. Nevertheless, if someone deliberately uttered those words, maliciously fully meaning them, it is a sin, and God tells us to confess our sins to him. To refuse to confess a sin to him is not holiness but disobedience.
I’ve reminded you how we are expected to confess our sins to God, so he is obviously not offended by us repeating to him disgusting things. I would also like to you remind you of this Scripture:
1 John 2:1 . . . if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
The Greek word used here for speaking in our defense is parakletos. It is a legal term for an advocate, a counsel for defense, one who pleads another’s cause before a judge. If you were charged with a criminal offense, it is not only safe to tell your lawyer (your parakletos) everything relevant to the crime you are charged with, it is foolish not to. He wants that information so that he can offer you the best defense.
You are probably aware that the Holy Spirit is likewise called the parakletos.
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [parakletos] to be with you forever
Just like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the parakletos sent into the world to be your defender forever.
No matter what you have done, the Holy Spirit is not your accuser. It is way off track to think of any member of the godhead as not being on your side, keen to defend and excuse you. It is God’s sworn enemy, the devil, who is the accuser (Revelation 12:10). You need to know your friends from your enemies. Don’t misjudge God by thinking of any member of the godhead as being easily offended or judgmental. How insulting to God to think of the Holy Spirit as some wimp who cowers at the sound of a bad word or some callous beast who flies into a rage when slandered or some bitter fiend who holds a grudge! Whether it be God the Father, Son or Holy Spirit, God is love.
Guilt feelings are the tempter trying to trick you into imagining God, your best Friend, is your enemy.
So to break out of spiritual bondage you must do your utmost not to believe guilt feelings. Thoughts are not a concern. Feelings, not thoughts, are your enemy, and the feeling you must be particularly ruthless with is the feeling of guilt. Moreover, the usual reason for uncontrollable blasphemous thoughts is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is an anxiety disorder – i.e. caused by excess anxiety – and anxiety feels like guilt. So the worse thing we can do is to cave in to guilt feelings. It is vital that we ignore feelings and live by faith.
Like condemnation, fear is not from God. Faith, not fear is what pleases him. Let me remind of these Scriptures:
Romans 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Salvation is all about choosing to believe in the forgiving power of Jesus’ sacrifice, no matter how much the deceiver seeks to fill us with condemnation and overwhelmingly convincing guilt feelings. This is the key point on which salvation rests, so we can expect huge battles involving horrific guilt feelings. Salvation depends not on your thought life but on whether you choose to keep putting your faith in your Savior, or in your feelings.
Romans 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. . . .
Romans 4:5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
Philippians 3:8-9 . . . I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may . . . be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
I pray that you are now sufficiently motivated to push through guilt feelings and apply Michael’s version of Exposure Therapy. I have a prayer that I suggest you use often. Remembering how basic how confessing one’s sins is to biblical Christianity, you can rest assured that praying the following pleases God:
Lord, you know how ridiculous thoughts and/or images have come into my mind. [Now describe in detail every one you can recall. This is important because until you can detail them to God, you are treating the mighty Savior of the world as weak or petty or as being in some other way unable to cope with life’s realities.]
I apologize for making such a big deal of these thoughts. I apologize for acting as if any words or images or thoughts had some magical power to scare you away or turn you from the beautiful person you are into some furious, short-tempered beast. By fearing them I was treating you as if you were lacking in love, patience and understanding. You are not like that at all. I should have feared neither them, nor your reaction. Thank you, Lord, that you love even your enemies and rush to forgive them the moment they look to Jesus for his cleansing. That is your greatest glory and I refuse to diminish that glory by doubting the scope of your love and forgiveness in my life.
It is not because you are weak and fragile that these horrible thoughts have upset you. They disturb you because in your love and understanding, you feel for me and you know how upsetting I have found the thoughts. You are distressed only because I have let myself be needlessly distressed by them. Thank you that you are my God and that we are in this trial together.
Right now, I choose to honor you by stubbornly pushing through all the doubt, fear and worry, and affirming that you love me so much that Jesus’ blood cleanses me from every sin and makes me your precious child. You are the forgiving God. You, who will never forsake me, are with me. You are stronger than my every weakness.
I accept your love. I am often too tense to feel anything positive but I do not have to feel your love to know it is real, any more than I had to be present when Jesus was crucified to know that he died for my every sin. Regardless of what my unruly thoughts and feelings do, your personal love for me is real and I thank you for it.
Unwanted thoughts will keep returning, so keep returning to the above prayer.
You will keep feeling guilt, so pray the following when it gets strong:
Lord, I feel guilty and anxious but I praise you that no matter how confused my thinking and feelings get, the devil, not you, is the accuser. I praise you that you have promised that all things work together for good for those who love you (Romans 8:28) so I thank you that these deceptive feelings will do me good by giving me the opportunity to learn to live by faith and not by feelings. Thank you that faith is more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7) and that, like muscle, it grows by being stretched. Thank you that even though my faith feels so weak, like a muscle that has had to be used over and over, this process will end up making me stronger.
Take a break when required. Whenever you begin to feel unsettled, however, you will need to return to this invaluable collection of resources. Designed to keep us sane and close to God when worries abound, you will often find yourself needing to read more of these webpages so that you can refocus and increase your understanding of what is afflicting you. If you have not already done so, start by reading Scrupulosity: The Help You Need when Worried about Salvation, Blasphemous Thoughts or Oppressive Guilt Feelings. It skips many valuable pages but gets to the heart of the matter.
Still More Encouragement: Testimonies About the Unforgivable Sin
Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2012 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give.
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